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  1. Transportation

Tampa police adding five more intersections to red-light camera system

Published Oct. 8, 2013

TAMPA — Sometime early next year, Tampa police plan to have red-light cameras watching a total of 23 intersections in the city — five more than today.

In addition to putting new cameras at Fowler Avenue and 30th Street/Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, which police announced Friday, the agency has gotten Florida Department of Transportation approval to add cameras to:

• The westbound lanes of Hillsborough Avenue at Florida Avenue.

• The east- and westbound lanes of Kennedy Boulevard at West Shore Boulevard, and the southbound lanes of West Shore at Kennedy.

• The northbound lanes of Howard Avenue at Kennedy, and the eastbound lanes of Kennedy at Howard.

• The north- and southbound lanes of Dale Mabry Highway at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the westbound lanes of MLK at Dale Mabry.

Each of the intersections is on the Tampa Police Department's list of the intersections without cameras that had the most crashes from 2010 to 2012.

Fowler and Bruce B. Downs leads the list with 76 crashes during that time. Dale Mabry and MLK had 47 crashes, Florida and Hillsborough and Kennedy and West Shore had 41 each, and Kennedy and Howard had 39.

None of the new cameras, however, is expected to go into operation until early 2014.

With these new intersections, Tampa's system will have 57 cameras — more than twice the 24 that it started with two years ago. But for how long?

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, last month filed a bill, SB 144, to ban the use of red-light cameras. The chairman of the Senate's Transportation Committee, Brandes has said he believes the cameras, currently used in at least 76 jurisdictions in Florida, are about generating revenue, not promoting safety.

Of the $158 collected from every citation, the state takes $83. The remaining $75 is split between the municipality and the camera vendor.

Brandes has said the ban, if passed, wouldn't cancel existing contracts but would stop local governments from renewing or signing new deals with vendors.

In Tampa, the number of tickets issued dropped nearly 12 percent from the first to the second year of the program. During the same period, ticket revenue to the city dropped more than 20 percent. (Officials say the numbers don't match because there's a lag between the tickets being issued and fines being paid.)

Police and city officials say the drop in tickets shows that the cameras are leading motorists to slow down and use more care.

"I have felt, based on the information that we've seen, that the cameras have fulfilled their intended purpose, which is to change driver behavior," said City Council member Harry Cohen, who had reservations about the program at first.

City records show that Tampa police sought state authorization for the next round of cameras in late May, three months before Brandes filed his bill.

Asked whether the prospect of a legislative ban affects the agency's decision to install more cameras, police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said the department is "moving forward with our plans with the law as it stands today."

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